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Young Engineers Space Program story Empty Young Engineers Space Program story

Post  Dick Russ Mon Mar 14, 2022 12:27 pm

Hello my friends,
I now have George and John Baldwin (Systems engineers) to work with George being the principal lead engineer over the Stage pressurization and ground pneumatics of the SII testing. There would be the three of us including George. My job was to work with the technicians in hooking up all the ground servicing (GSE)equipment that would be needed to pressurize the Second Stage Hydrogen and Oxygen tanks as well as provide pneumatics for the rest of the stage as needed which consisted of providing the Helium or Nitrogen as needed to transfer the Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2) from the storage tanks to the actual test stand as well as any systems that needed pressure. Once the equipment arrived from Downey and in place on the stand the technicians could start hooking up all the interconnecting lines. But since we didn't have the Ground servicing equipment on site George gave a stack of drawings to study since my job was to see everything was connected properly to the equipment.
It wasn't much longer that the three of us were called (our manager) to John Gera's office for a meeting which primarilly was to see how we were doing on getting the rocket ready for the first single engine firing using the Battleship systems. John ask how I was doing on getting everything hooked up which consisted of hundreds of feet of stanless tubing and flex hoses. He pointed out that we very shortly had to perform our first test of the single J2 engine to meet our NASA test schedule. Jokingly I made the comment that we still didn't all our ground servicing equipment and the only way we could fire the engine in that short of time is if we ran flex hoses from the Delta test stand down the road to the Battleship and fired the engine from the Delta control center; and there was no way the test firing was going to take place on time. Well we did meet our schedule and got our first firing as needed. I will leave it to your imagination as to how it was accomplished.

After the first firing which was reasonably a short duration we ran into a problem. Before firing the engine, prevalves were opened allowing Hydrogen to enter the engine combustion chamber just prior to ignition. The Downey propulsion engineers came up with and idea since with the Hydrogen gas was in the engine exhaust chamber it could possibly explode and destroy the engine. So they designed the Free Hydrogen Ignition System which consisted of a single stainless conductor wire imbeded inside 1/4 inch stainless steel tubing with a porcelain insulator inside protecting the conductor (wire) which they felt was needed do the extreme temperatures generated by the engine. Around the exit of engine (bell) exhaust chamber they attached three insulated sparkplugs which were basically aircraft sparkplugs that would be activated prior to the Hydrogen being released. Now just imagine this. The technicians had to run three stainless steel lines from an ignition control box over to the engine and down and around the engine perimeter to the spark plugs. Sounds feasable except for one thing. It didn't work. It seems that when the technicians were running the tubing filled with porcelian insulation everytime they made a bend in the tubing it cracked the porcelain causing a direct short. Now I imagined that the three long stainless steel tubing filled with porcelain (which I had no idea how they were made) had to cost an arm and a leg. This is where I had an idea how to fix it very cheaply. I suggested to John that we could run insulated flexable aircraft ignition wire to each sparkplug. It would be cheap and if the flame burned the wiring after each firing so what! They would be easy to replace and would always work when needed. I mentioned there was a aircraft parts supplier in Van Nuys where we could buy the wire which was just a short drive. John (my manager) said he liked the idea and for me to go get what I needed. So off I went to VanNuys and came back with a 100 foot roll of aircraft ignition wire. No sooner than when I came back I wrote an EO (engineering order) to remove all the stainless tubing and replace them with the new flexible ignition wire. To make a long story short, the change worked perfect and was even incorporated on the Saturn V rocket at the Cape. Later on I received a letter and certificate from NASA awarding me with a Design Achievement Award for my contribution in making the Saturn V safer. It wasn't really a big thing because I just felt that is was what they were paying me for but is was nice to receive.
Until next time.
Dick Russ
Dick Russ
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Posts : 78
Join date : 2021-11-23
Age : 84
Location : Oklahoma City, OK

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